Our church is journeying in prayer this month. Our preaching series is “Questions of Prayer,” which aims to be honest about questions we share about prayer and give us orientation points for our praying. An optional step past Sunday morning is working through Steve Harper’s book, Talking in the Dark: Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
Chapter 3 begins by looking at some “church problems” in our praying, but it concludes with two concepts that can help us pray better. Here they are.
- Prayer as Speech
- “Total prayer for total living”
Prayer as Speech
Steve confronts the problem with prayer mentioned in the last post, assumption, but suggesting a different way of understanding prayer as something that is natural. Sometimes, we compare prayer to breathing: “It is just as natural as drawing a breath,” we might say. But Steve says, “Rather than assuming that prayer is like breathing, let’s assume it is like talking. Talk is natural. We are made to talk.” (p. 48) But talking takes work and practice and time to develop. “A child’s fist word ignites an entire process that leads the child farther into the experience of speech” (p. 49). What if we conceived of prayer this way? Would there be any doubt that prayer is something continually to develop? And wouldn’t we have grace enough to know that we aren’t experts overnight, that we are still developing?
“Total Prayer for Total Living”
Jesus shared a vision for God’s people, when he said that the Temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13). These words give guidance to the church. The church can create an environment of prayer. One of Steve’s mentors, Dr. Tom Carruth used the phrase, “total prayer for total living” (p. 50) to help us view prayer as a way of life and not only a “time of prayer.” Steve calls for “prayerful living,” though he stresses that this happens when we are connected with God in the midst of daily activities and when we pause to observe a time of prayer individually or collectively in the church. He reminds us: “Jesus modeled prayerful living for us. He observed fixed tiems of personal prayer and participated in synagogue worship services where specific prayers were offered. But he also moved through the day in communion with God… Jesus was attentive to God, on his knees and on his feet.” (p. 51)
To get to a place in our praying like that, “attentive to God, on [our] knees and on [our] feet,” takes learning – like learning to talk.
Question: What practices of prayer help you remain attentive to God, “on [your] knees and on [your] feet”?